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The Gregory Jade 38 Backpack Review for Women (2020 Update)

gregory jade 38l backpack review

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After her old backpack fell apart (after just 2 years!), Georgina chose the Gregory Jade 38 hiking pack as a replacement. She wanted something durable, medium-sized, and useful for both hiking and city travel – and the Jade 38 delivered.

Georgina’s glowing review of the Gregory Jade was originally published in 2017, but we’ve updated with notes on the newer 2019 model of the same bag, highlighting a few top features. 

Check out why Georgina loves her bag, and the most recent model updates, in this Gregory Jade 38 backpack review.

Gregory Jade 38 Quick Review

PROS

  • Carry-on friendly (without top pocket full)
  • Functions well for both hiking and travel
  • Features luxury details not typically found on small packs

CONS

  • Water bottle accessibility could be improved
  • Difficult to fit a laptop

Review of the Gregory Jade 38

Gregory Jade 38 backpack review
The Gregory Jade 38 backpack from the back and side

I replaced my old tatty Mountain Warehouse backpack and couldn’t be more pleased with my choice in the Gregory Jade 38. I am an outdoorsy type and enjoy hiking and kayaking, but I wanted a bag that is also good for travel.

The Gregory Jade 38 is a mid-size hiking pack, with all the fancy features you get on bigger rucksacks. The cost is around $180 USD and is widely available through MEC and REI but could be harder to buy internationally than other brands.

Why I Chose the Gregory Jade 38

The most important factor in my choice was the quality of the pack. My last pack fell apart in just two years. As this bag would be my constant companion, I didn’t want that to happen again. 

I needed a pack that was dual-purpose, to function well for both hiking and travel.

The size, color and extras were a large part of my final choice too. Features such as the air mesh back, front and top loading options, inner lid pocket and hip belt with pockets all drew me to this Gregory. 

These features are often found on bigger (65L+) packs but are rarer in combination on medium-sized packs. I already knew that anything larger than 45L would be too big for comfort for me.

Features Updated in 2019

The Gregory brand released a new and updated version of the Jade 38 in 2019. The following list was highlighted by REI and reveals some exciting changes. 

  • Free Float Suspension with low profile 
  • Open Air Ventilation, moisture wicking mesh and customizable torso length 
  • Torso adjustment system direct-connects to frame 
  • Lower back Comfort Cradle system delivers an ultra-comfortable, body hugging fit, while the Float Bushings allow the hipbelt and pack to flex and move with your body
  • Ventilated and moisture wicking back panel and shoulder harness w/t QuickStow
  • Sunglass feature added 
  • Enlarged hip belt pockets for larger phones and point and shoot cameras 
  • Trail Access side mesh pockets for on the go water bottle and accessory access (editor’s note: more info on these below)
  • Comfort Grip molded zipper pulls 
  • Rain cover moved to underside of top pocket for quicker access

Pros and Cons of the Gregory Jade 38

There are so many things which make me love this pack: the colour, its perfect size for multiple climates and carry on, it is front loading, and its comfort and quality.

The Best Features

1 – All Gregory packs are made with high quality construction.
There is no pull at the stitching as on some cheaper brands, the fabric is water resistant, and the zips feel solid. 

2 – The quality adds to the aesthetics of the bag.
This is a truly beautiful backpack with simple lines and great colour choices and accents. I chose the grey colour with blue accents but there are other colours to chose from including red and turquoise.

3 – The size is just perfect for hiking and an overnight camping adventure.
There is enough space to cram in a tent, a small sleeping bag and some cooking equipment. 

For travel, this bag offers enough space for extra outfits or gloves, hats and boots when travelling to a cold climate. Although careful packing is required, it still gives enough space for those who are used to travelling carry on only.

4 – This bag offers a great combination of features.
There are both top and front loading options for travel, a comfortable hip belt with pockets, two side pockets, two lid pockets, a stuffable front pocket similar to that on the Osprey packs, a pocket for a hydration bladder and a raincover.

Gregory Jade 38 backpack review
Georgina’s Gregory Jade 38 backpack partially packed

The Downsides

There are a few downsides, as with any product, but they weren’t major for me. 

1 – Not ideal for laptops.
It is difficult to put a full size laptop into this bag because of the slight curve created by the airmesh back panel. I’m not traveling with a laptop right now, but I suppose it could be a factor in the future.

2 – Could be resized better for carry-on.
It would be great if this pack was an inch shorter and instead a little wider. That would make it fit better into the carry-on size regulations. I have found it is fine as a carry-on, but I have to be conscious not to fill the top pocket (as this makes the bag too long for the official dimensions).

3 – Easier access to front loading section.
My only other small annoyance with this pack is the placement of the straps which hold the front section. You have to unclip two side straps to access the front loading section. It is very minor but takes time, which could be frustrating when you want quick access.

Common Complaint: Water Bottle Pockets

One (and seemingly, the only) common complaint about the Gregory Jade 38 is that the water bottle is difficult or even impossible to access without taking off your pack. The 2019 upgrade doesn’t seem to have made any adjustments to address this problem. 

A few Jade 38 users have weighed in with their workarounds. Some simply asked their hiking buddy to hand their bottle to them. Others positioned their water bottles specifically for easy grab by their lid loops (but still could not return the bottle to the pocket while wearing). 

Many did not use the side mesh pockets for water bottles at all, instead opting to utilize the Gregory bladder hydration system that the pack also offers. 

For a very small few, the water bottle pockets were a deal breaker.

Backpack Testing Period

Gregory Jade 38 backpack review
Georgina traveling in Mexico

I have only had this backpack for a month in which time I have tested it hiking and travelling around Mexico. I cannot comment on its robustness over time.

I did check it on a flight recently and it came out unscathed. After a full month of travel, it still looks good as new.

Backpack Fit and Comfort

I have the S/M size of this bag, but XS/S is also available. I’m around 5’5″ and I find this bag very comfortable even when fully loaded.

In the shop, I actually said it was the most comfortable bag I’d ever worn, and that includes my Osprey Ariel. The Jade has a full hip belt and load strap set which allows you to carry large weights comfortably.

Backpack Size

I feel the size of this pack is just right. My old backpack was 35L and after the top pocket broke it was more like 32L. After working in a small 32L, the Gregory Jade 38L feels like heaven.

The front stuffable pocket even provides extra room for coats or shoes, which was useful when leaving Canada headed to sunny Mexico!

I love that this bag’s size allows me to use it as a carry-on. With just a bit of forethought to not fill the top pocket, it has been accepted on some of the stricter airlines. I am yet to test this on European airlines but have flown carry-on with this bag on VivaAerobus in Mexico; they are pretty strict and even often weigh your carry-on.

Gregory Jade 38 vs. Osprey Kyte 36

A lot of women who are shopping for good hiking and travel packs in this size range tend to compare the Gregory Jade 38 with the Osprey Kyte 36. We’ve laid out some of the main features below for consideration.

Gregory Jade 38

  • Style: Hiking
  • Price: $170-$180 USD
  • Size: S/M 38L; XS/S 35L
  • Access: Front and Top Loading
  • Petite Sizing: XS fits a 14” torso and a 26” waist
Gregory Jade 38 Backpack

Osprey Kyte 36

  • Style: Hiking
  • Price: $160 USD 
  • Size: S/M 36L; XS/S 34L
  • Access: Top, Side, and Bottom access points
  • Petite Sizing: XS fits a 13” torso and a 24” waist
Osprey Kyte 36 backpack comparison to Gregory Jade 38

Overall Recommendation

I would definitely recommend this pack.  Anyone looking for a medium sized backpack should consider the Gregory Jade 38, especially those who like to use their bag outdoors as well as for city travel.

About the author: Georgina is an outdoor girl who just spent a year au-pairing in Canada and is now travelling around North America. She has travelled around Europe in the past and across the US and Canada in the last year.



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Gear We Use

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Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

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Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

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Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

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Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Ioanna says

    Thank you for this review, Georgina! I’m looking to down-size my hiking backpack (50+10L) to something around 40L, so this one might be a good option.
    Any info on how much it weighs?

    Thanks!
    Ioanna (A Woman Afoot)

  2. Bridget says

    I just bought this pack as well for my RTW travels. You are correct on the few downsides of the bag however they are very very minor in my opinion. My only additions (if I wanted to make this more of a hiking bag) would to add daisy chains on the front and move the hydration bladder sleeve to be exterior vs interior. But, like you, I tried on several…..several bags and this one felt the best by far! I really wanted to go with either a travel specific bag or Osprey brand but none of those felt as comfortable as this one. So, since comfort is the most important factor, I will have to make my stuff fit the bag.

  3. Raissa says

    I have this backpack as well! Bought it in red back in February 2015 and it’s still in great shape; been mostly using it for travel rather than hiking or camping. I haven’t taken it overseas yet (mostly because I like to bring home booze from other countries and I feel much better checking bottles into suitcases rather than backpacks) but I’ve taken it through the ringer on weeklong trips to California and Canada. I agree about the curve of the back making it slightly challenging when packing solid shaped items but it hasn’t been off-putting for me. It fits a lot more than it looks and it’s quite comfortable when you put it on and strap yourself in, even when it’s packed to the max.

  4. Georgina Weston says

    An update:

    After more than a year of use, this bag still looks in pretty good shape. Nothing structural has gone amiss, all zippers, stiching and buckles are still solid. I’m still in love with this bag! It’s been to a few more places including an interesting ferry to Knoydart in Scotland.

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